Archive for ‘Hearing Loss’

June 19, 2013

Benja loves his “Signing Time”

As many of you know, Benjamin has hearing loss.  He is deaf in one ear (the ear with microtia) and has moderately severe hearing loss in his other ear.  He wears a Cochlear Baha hearing aid with headband.  When he’s about 5 or so they will surgically insert a cochlear implant.

In addition to having hearing loss, Benjamin has a craniofacial condition that essentially “locks” his jaw shut.  He can open his jaw a few centimeters.  He also has a large un-repaired cleft palate.  These things combined means that Benjamin is mostly non-verbal. He attempts to speak (makes sounds) but no words actually come out.

We began introducing ASL to Benja in the form on baby signs shortly after he came home.   We did this through the book and DVD system “Signing Time”.   I can’t recommend this program enough.  The videos are so informative while at the same time very entertaining.  Benjamin happily sits and signs along during his daily Signing Time.  He loves it!   He now has a vocabulary of about 10 signs he does regularly on his own and a handful more he does when prompted.  Believe me, the difference between no language and being able to “say” 10 different things is huge!  We have seen such a decrease in his frustration level now that he’s able to tell us what he wants.  And the best part is, he really WANTS to sign!  He makes up signs constantly (babbling in sign, so cute!)  and seems eager to participate when we try learning new words.

I wanted to share our success so far with Signing Time and recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy and fun way to introduce ASL to your young child.  We couldn’t be happier with it.

Benja signing time from sister haiti on Vimeo.

April 3, 2013

Communicating with Benjamin

I feel like we’ve finally hit a long awaited breakthrough with Benja.  He’s trying to communicate with us so much more than he used to!

For example, this afternoon he waved “hi” at me when I went into get him up from his nap.

As I was changing his diaper he signed “eat” and “said” yes (this sounds like a grunt but we know what he means) when I asked if he wanted a snack.

When he was done eating he signed “all done”.

He then signed the word socks” and crawled over and sat by his socks and shoes signing “socks”.

After I put them on he went to the TV and signed “Yo Gabba Gabba” and then pointed at the TV.  He started squeeling and laughing when I turned it on.  I asked him if he was happy and he signed happy!

He’s changing so much!  Actually seeing him tell us what he wants instead of tears and frustration…I can’t tell you how good that feels.

Go, Benji, go!!!


October 2, 2012

Benja’s Eating Update

It was almost exactly a year ago that I was in Uganda trying to convince 18 month old Benja that having something {anything!} in his mouth was OK.   At that point anything you tried to put near his mouth (your hand, a spoon, toothbrush, etc) was pushed away violently.  If you insisted he would throw himself backwards, shaking his head back and forth as fast as possible and start to cry.  He would do anything  to keep whatever you were offering away from his mouth.

Shortly after we came home we notice he started putting toys up to his mouth.  But only if he did it himself.   I spent time every day forcing my finger into his mouth to massage his gums.  His dentist shook his head, muttering under his breath that he couldn’t believe that Benja kept his mouth so clamped shut all the time that most of his teeth have never been given a chance to erupt.  “Do what you can to get him used to having things in his mouth…” the doctor told us.   They tried to pry his mouth open at one point at the hospital.  It was then that we realized we were dealing with a bigger problem – that it wasn’t that he wouldn’t open his mouth, he couldn’t.    It only opened a few centimeters.

So I kept at it.  Massaging his gums, encouraging him to make sounds and move his mouth, clapping and cheering when his tongue ventured past his teeth to test the taste of a new toy.   We started to notice him opening his mouth more and more.   And then he realized he loved the taste of icing.  So if we put our fingers in his mouth with something sweet he would allow us to keep doing it over and over.

A few months later he discovered that baby food on a spoon was pretty yummy.   That was the start of his love affair with food and the end of his oral aversion.  Now anything and everything that can be eaten off a spoon is taken happily.  Just the sight of spoon gets him excited.  And holding a spoon, even with nothing on it, is one of his favorite things to do.  He can now open his mouth wide enough to stick a small finger between the top and bottom jaw.  A spoon still wont fit between his teeth but if you scoop the food under his top lip he has learned to suck it down quickly.

He even lets us brush his front teeth now.   And enjoys it!

A few months ago I started seriously trying to get Benja to feed himself.  He’s started eating small melt-away yogurt snacks that I push between his teeth and onto his tongue.   I’m hoping he can master picking these snacks up on his own but we haven’t gotten there yet.

We’ve also been slowly introducing him to the idea of feeding himself baby food with a spoon.

It has been slow going.  For months we’ve worked on this.

Last night, like I have a hundred times in the past, I put him in a highchair with a tiny bit of applesauce in a bowl in front of him.   I took a hold of his hand with the spoon in it.  Over and over again I dipped the spoon into the food and guided his hand to his mouth.  Then I let go.   And guess what?  HE KEPT GOING!   He fed himself the rest of that bowl and then I gave him some more and he fed himself that one too!

Look at him go!  PROGRESS!!!  So proud of our baby boy!!

IMG 4263 from sister haiti on Vimeo.


September 15, 2012

Hearing Aid!

On Wednesday we headed to the hospital to pick up Benja’s {long awaited} hearing aid!

As I’ve mentioned before, Benja was born with microtia of one ear.   That ear is very underdeveloped and has no opening.  Weren’t quite sure what was going on inside until we had some tests done.  We found out a few months ago that Benja doesn’t have a functioning ear canal and has no hearing on that side.   When they tested the other ear they found that he had very little hearing in that ear either and labeled him essentially deaf.   We knew he could hear some things (he repeats certain sounds we make and turns his head when we call his name) but it probably wasn’t much and not very clear.  Benja is also non-verbal.  He makes noises/sounds but has never spoken a real word.  We (and his speech therapists!) have been really hoping that once he can hear, he may begin to try some words.

Anyway, back to Wednesday.  We drove up and picked up his Cochlear Baha with a softband.   I was a bit anxious to see how he did the first time with it on.  I had been warned that some kids freak out the first time they get their hearing aids so I was prepared for a difficult transition.   Benja wasn’t sure what to think when we first put it on (the hearing aid was still switched off).  He reached up to pull it off several times.  We turned the hearing aid on and he immediately jerked around and stared at us with wide eyes.  We talked to him and he smiled at us and reached for the hearing aid.  When he touched it, it squealed (as hearing aids do).  He started crying then.  I comforted him a bit and he stopped.  He touched the hearing aid again to make it squeal and this time smiled.  He would touch it several times in a row and laugh when it made a the squealing noise.  It was quite cute.   Then Jovie pushed a button on a (loud) toy which started making noise and I think startled him so he started crying again.  It must have been such a shock to hear all those loud noises after all this time!   We took it off in the car so he could sleep (he hadn’t napped yet).  That evening when we got home and put it back on him he smiled and started jumping around.  He hasn’t looked back since !  He doesn’t seem upset or disturbed by it at all.  He doesn’t even try to take it off.   If he accidently makes is squeal (leans up against a pillow or someone brushes it) he either fusses or laughs depending on his mood.  But otherwise I think he forgets it is there.

I’m so relieved it has been such an easy transition for him so far!  I can’t wait to see if we can make any progress with his verbal communication.   I’m anxious for us to really start communicating.  He’s been regularly signing “more” but that’s about all we’ve got so far even though we’re signing a good number of signs fairly regularly throughout the day.  We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks and months!